Arbor View students rally to keep theater program thriving

Theater students at Arbor View High School don’t want this year’s final play to be the school’s final play ever, so they have set a goal of raising $5,000 from their upcoming show, "The Crucible."

Arthur Miller’s play is a Tony Award-winning drama about the Salem witch trials that took place in the 1690s in Massachusetts.

Performances are scheduled at 6 p.m. Wednesday though Friday in the school’s theater, 7500 Whispering Sands Drive. Tickets are $7 at the door, and seating opens at 5:30 p.m.

The school’s theater budget likely will be cut, so money raised would cover licensing fees and construction costs for next year’s performances.

For several seniors, it’s their final curtain call, and they’re making the most of it.

Jeremy Reese spent months designing and constructing a unique set, which he considers his best work.

"Nothing has ever looked like this up to this point," Reese said. "It might now, because people are going to come see it and say, ‘W hat a great idea.’

"I looked up just about any ‘Crucible’ set I could in the past, and I tried to get mine as far away from those as I could," he said.

Reese strived for authenticity in his design, from the shape of the houses to the wood used to build them. Even the bed design is an accurate representation, he said.

Reese collaborated with light-design students to create an "interactive" set that allows for dramatic light and shadow changes.

His design received a superior rating and the highest score at the State Thespian Conference last month.

Reese said he was attracted to the play because of its historical significance.

Miller wrote it in 1953 in response to the Joseph McCarthy-led communist witch hunt of that era.

Miller was suspected of being a communist for publishing it.

The play also is special to theater arts director David Kelley, who finally gets the chance to direct his favorite play.

"I visited Salem when I was 12," he said, "and I’ve been fascinated with it ever since."

Kelley doesn’t like long blackouts and set changes mid-show because it "takes the audience out of the play."

"I’ve never been sure of it before," he said. "It’s so difficult to direct."

With this innovative one-piece set, Kelley feels more comfortable taking on the material.

He plans direct performances of "Twelfth Night" and "Huck Finn" next school year, if he’s still around.

Like every public school in the Las Vegas Valley, Arbor View faces tough budgetary decisions. If enrollment in Kelley’s five film and theater classes does not meet a quota, Kelley may be on his way out.

"Arbor View has a reputation of being one of the best arts programs in the county," Kelley said. "Our administration is really supportive of the arts. I love coming to school and I love teaching, because I get to work with the kids every single day.

"But it’s kind of overshadowed by this budget crunch. I’m worried that all this hard work will have gone to waste."

For junior Breanna Whitley, who plays Abigail Williams on stage, losing theater would be to lose more than just a class.

"Theater is a family to us," Whitley said. "If theater’s cut, if all this stuff is cut, then we can’t do what we love."

Contact View education reporter Jeff Mosier at jmosier@viewnews.com or 224-5524.

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